After hitting 100 degrees Wednesday, Portland’s light-rail trains are operating at slower speeds amid concern that the heat will cause tracks to expand and risk a derailment. In exchange for the slow service, inspectors are not checking riders for tickets.
PORTLAND — Children splashed about as adults dipped their toes in Portland fountains seeking relief from a heat wave that’s baking a region famous for cool weather.
In normally temperate Oregon and Washington, warm days mean simply drawing shades and running fans. But a searing high-pressure system was making Portland and Seattle sizzle and leading residents to hunt for air conditioning.
Portland hit 100 degrees on Wednesday and Seattle 90.
Many concerned communities have opened cooling centers and warned residents to stay hydrated, avoid strenuous activity and keep their dogs out of parked vehicles.
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The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for Western Washington and Oregon and said the highs in Portland on Thursday could hit 105 degrees.
Portland’s light-rail trains are operating at slower speeds amid concern that the heat will cause tracks to expand and risk a derailment. In exchange for the slow service, fare inspectors are not checking riders for tickets.
Hun Taing uses the train to get to her job in downtown Portland, but she switched to an air-conditioned car because of the delays. She and a co-worker, Heather Heater, had a casual work meeting Wednesday at Director Park, dipping their toes in the fountain as children splashed in the water.
They both have air conditioning at home — something they once lacked — and expressed more concern for the homeless and elderly than for their personal comfort.
“I was in an apartment without AC when I just had my twins, and it was really difficult,” Taing said Wednesday. “We had to pack ourselves in the car and just go somewhere, drive somewhere, because that apartment on the second floor was too hot for the infants.”
Heater, who endures jokes about her last name, said having air conditioning was a requirement when she moved to the fourth floor in a recently constructed apartment building.
Anna Miller, 27, lives in an older brick building — a situation faced by many young renters in Portland.
“It’s going to be pretty warm, but I’ll probably just go to a bar before going home,” said Miller, who wore a scarf and long sleeves outdoors Wednesday because the morning was chilly and she works in an air-conditioned office as an administrative assistant.
Forecasters had warned that Seattle could see its highest temperatures since the 1890s. The city has recorded only three days at 100 degrees or higher in the more than a century, according to the weather service.
Associated Press writers Gene Johnson in Seattle and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington, contributed to this report.